When lockdown restrictions are eased, how will we social distance in offices?

My immediate gut response to this is; it’s easy. Sit every other desk, half work from home for half the week and the other half come into the office. Of course, most of us office workers haven’t seen our desk for many weeks. Oh, the excitement of leaving the house and being in a proper office! People do like going to work, we need to find a balance that works. Not everyone has the environment where they can work from home long term.

However maybe I have woefully underestimated the problem here. Do we need to turn to Data Science to help give us the answers? ‘Landing Al” is a Social Distancing detector. It was founded by Data Science influencer Andrew NG. Essentially it is an AI System that can also be used as a workplace monitoring tool to enable social distancing

https://landing.ai/landing-ai-creates-an-ai-tool-to-help-customers-monitor-social-distancing-in-the-workplace/

Looking at this and also the Sensors & Internet of Things (IOT) devices and these clearly demonstrate that my idea of 50% looks to be completely over optimistic and actually the real figure would be more like 20%. https://www.burohappold.com/articles/social-distancing-in-the-workplace/#

Frankly most of us are sensible. Is it just a case of trusting employees to make the right decision in regards to their safety, as they do when they go to Tesco to do their shopping? Or should companies go further?

How many people can you have in a building? If you need to use a lift how many people should you have in a lift? Two at a time? That is before we even think about germs on the lift buttons.

How do we get to work? We have all seen the scenes recently on public transport. But even car sharing could be a thing of the past. If people are travelling in separate cars, will there be a need for more parking spaces? This will have to be a factor to consider when deciding who is in on certain days. Perhaps we need to devise rotas to stagger start and finish times to cut down on the outside of work interactions.

In lots of offices, people work on desk banks, which is great as it encourages quick exchange of ideas. Will we need to install Perspex screens between desks? Will this hinder the collaborative culture? Will this make us feel lonely or could it in fact drive productivity where not only the germ transmission has been cut down but also the noise and distractions.

Should hand gel and PPE be supplied by the company of is it down to the employee to supply their own if they think they need it. Certainly, companies should outline strict hygiene procedures and more cleaning. Although I think most people would prefer to clean their own desk just to be sure it really is clean.

I wonder if a health passport be rolled out where corona virus testing is used to prove who is thought to be immune, but I equally wonder if this is a bit much and could cause discrimination. Or maybe at the very least we should consider asking employees to take their temperature and confirm they have no symptoms before they come to work. Frankly, most of us are sensible. Is it just a case of trusting employees to make the right decision or should companies go further?

This has got me thinking, if we are only going to have some of the workforce in at any one time, does this mean that we should look at smaller offices? Or does it mean the reverse, should we be looking at more square footage to enable social distancing.

Perhaps I have over complicated this whole subject and maybe it is much simpler, as an article in the Daily Mail suggests, citing Chinese Doctor Zhang Wenhang who advice when returning to work in offices was simply to sit next to someone you dislike to avoid speaking!

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